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Indonesia Tells Singapore It's 'Behaving Like a Child' About Smog Coming From Indonesia

Record levels of pollution are being recorded in Singapore this week as smog overtakes the city. The city-state's prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, says it may linger for weeks.

Singapore's smog problem is being attributed to farmers attempting to clear land along the Indonesian island of Sumatra through a "slash and burn" process, only to start forest fires instead.

The Pollution Standards Index peaked at 371 earlier today, well above hazardous levels, before falling to about 218 (a PSI reading over 200 indicates "very unhealthy" air and a PSI score above 300 is considered "hazardous"). Singapore's previous PSI high was 226, reached in 1997.

Emergency meetings are being held in Jakarta between the two nation's environment officials, but frustrations have already spilled out on both sides, with Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister writing on his Facebook page that "no country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans' health and wellbeing." Indonesia's Minister for People's Welfare has since accused Singapore of "behaving like a child." According to the BBC, other Indonesian officials suggest foreign palm oil companies, some from Singapore, may be partially responsible for the fires.

Thanks to the poor visibility in Singapore, air traffic controllers have been told to work with extra caution. Air quality issues have led stores to run out of disposable face masks. McDonald's has canceled its delivery service for now, 200 schools in the southern portion of the island are closed and the Singaporean military has suspended all outdoor training.

The Indonesian government says it is educating farmers about alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture.

Below, via Reuters, scenes from Singapore, as record air pollution and smog persist.


A man looks at the hazy skyline of the Singapore business district June 20, 2013. Singapore's haze deteriorated to "hazardous" levels late on Wednesday as smoke from slash-and-burn land clearing in Indonesia enveloped the city-state, inflaming tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours. The Pollution Standards Index (PSI) soared to a record high of 321 at 10 p.m., up from 290 just an hour earlier and below 200 earlier in the day. A PSI reading above 300 indicates "hazardous" air quality, while a reading between 201 and 300 means "very unhealthy". (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


People watch a plane sitting on the tarmac at Changi Airport June 20, 2013. The haze has caused Singapore's Changi Airport to increase time between takeoffs and landings as a safety measure, causing some departure and arrival delays, according to local media. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


A man sells N95 safety face masks to office workers for S$10 ($7.80) a piece in Singapore's central business district June 20, 2013. The haze blanketing Singapore from fires in Indonesia could persist for weeks or even longer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday, warning of consequences if Singapore-linked companies were found responsible for the burning. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


Waitress Geraldine Ontong, from the Philippines, wearing a face mask serves customer at a pub in Singapore's central business district June 20, 2013. The haze blanketing Singapore from fires in Indonesia could persist for weeks or even longer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday, warning of consequences if Singapore-linked companies were found responsible for the burning. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


An office worker wearing a face mask rests in a park in Singapore's central business district June 20, 2013. The haze blanketing Singapore from fires in Indonesia could persist for weeks or even longer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday, warning of consequences if Singapore-linked companies were found responsible for the burning. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


A sign on the counter says "All kinds of face masks are sold out" at a pharmacy in Singapore June 20, 2013. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


Construction workers wear face masks, to protect them from a heavy smoke haze, as they perform morning exercises at the start of their shift in Singapore June 20, 2013. Singapore's air quality deteriorated to "hazardous" levels late on Wednesday as smoke from slash-and-burn land clearing in Indonesia enveloped the city-state, inflaming tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbors. (REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)


A commuter wearing a face mask stands in a train in Singapore June 20, 2013. Singapore's haze deteriorated to "hazardous" levels late on Wednesday as smoke from slash-and-burn land clearing in Indonesia enveloped the city-state, inflaming tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours. The Pollution Standards Index (PSI) soared to a record high of 321 at 10 p.m., up from 290 just an hour earlier and below 200 earlier in the day. A PSI reading above 300 indicates "hazardous" air quality, while a reading between 201 and 300 means "very unhealthy". (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


A tourist poses for photos with the Merlion (unseen) in the hazy skyline of Singapore June 20, 2013. Singapore's haze deteriorated to "hazardous" levels late on Wednesday. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


Office workers pass the hazy skyline of Singapore June 19, 2013. Singapore's worst air pollution in 16 years sparked diplomatic tension on Tuesday, as the city-state urged Indonesia to provide data on company names and concession maps to enable it to act against plantation firms that allow slash-and-burn farming. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


People enjoy a drink on a yacht sailing past the hazy skyline of Marina Bay Sands casino and resort in Singapore June 19, 2013. Singapore's worst air pollution in 16 years sparked diplomatic tension on Tuesday, as the city-state urged Indonesia to provide data on company names and concession maps to enable it to act against plantation firms that allow slash-and-burn farming. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)


A jogger passes the hazy skyline of Singapore June 19, 2013. Singapore's worst air pollution in 16 years sparked diplomatic tension on Tuesday, as the city-state urged Indonesia to provide data on company names and concession maps to enable it to act against plantation firms that allow slash-and-burn farming. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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